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Ivy Academy educators prepare for new honeybee program

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Ivy Academy office manager Ansley Eichhorn, left, and Exceptional Education teacher Holly Slater are learning how to keep honeybees over the next several months.

Ivy Academy office manager Ansley Eichhorn and Exceptional Education teacher Holly Slater are embarking on their own educational venture this spring — and it’s going to be sweeter than honey.

Thanks to a Junior League of Chattanooga mini-grant they received last fall, Eichhorn and Slater are learning how to keep honeybees through a Tennessee Valley Beekeepers Association mentorship program. The program lasts seven months, during which time they will be mentored by a beekeeper and receive their own hive in April to be placed at the school.

Eichhorn said they have big plans for their newfound knowledge of bees.

“Our grant is written to start the honeybee program, which will be the forerunner for our pollination program,” she said. “It’s also going to help our garden a lot.”

The plan is to grow the school’s garden into a community garden and a weekly farmers market that would be run by the students during the school year. Money and produce from the garden would go back to the school as well as to the local food bank, Eichhorn explained.

“[Honeybees] are so good and we need them,” said Slater. “Any flowering vegetable and fruit needs something to pollinate it. If we don’t have pollinators, we don’t have vegetables.”

Through the mentorship program, she and Eichhorn will learn how to initiate a hive, pick out the queen bee and can the honey when it’s ready, and more.

Producing honey and having a healthy garden are only a few of the benefits Eichhorn and Slater foresee coming out of the program.

“I just want to connect with the bees; I love their social order,” Eichhorn said.

“I’ve waited until I was 29 to get to do this. I wish I would have had this chance when I was that young,” said Slater, referring to Ivy students who will get to learn from the honeybee hive.

The students won’t be handling the bees, Eichhorn noted, but they will learn about the pollination process and how to coexist with pollinating bees in the garden.

“It is a very pivotal moment for the bee population,” she said, explaining that the number of honeybees all over the nation is decreasing.

Find out more about Ivy Academy at ivyacademychattanooga.com.